Jane Elfers is the epitome of Alpha Rising.
She is confident and forward thinking. She has been handed a slew of unwanted jobs at broken companies and successfully turned them around.
More importantly, she is the first person to stand up, mentor girls and encourage them to find their passion.
She is exactly what we need to correct the lack of women at the top and in the boardroom.
And that is exactly why we are launching our new series, Alpha Rising.
Elfers has been CEO at The Children's Place (PLCE) since 2010.
Since then, she has replaced the management team, sometimes more than once, and helped to institute what she calls "self-help" systems and fleet optimization policies that have taken the company from a sleeper brick-and-mortar children's clothing store to a digital-first leader in specialty retail.
The stock is up around 130% since she took office and 45% alone during fiscal year 2016. The S&P 500 was only up 18% during the equivalent period. Just sayin.'
The company barely has any debt. And she recently increased the dividend a whopping 20 cents.
Oh and want to know how she's competing with Amazon? She's not. She just joined them instead.
But this is what she does. Hand her a challenge and watch her fix it.
That's what she did at Lord & Taylor too.
At 38, she was CEO of the ailing company that had been neglected for over 20 years and insisted on closing almost 40% of their stores when everyone else was opening them. "You could see the future. You could see [all those stores were] going to drag the rest of the chain down over time," she says.
She was adamant and made bold decisions. "Lord & Taylor was America's favorite store and was staying that way under my watch."
I had the pleasure of spending time with her in their showroom at headquarters in Secaucus, NJ, surrounded by their upcoming winter line.
And I must admit, I almost wished I had little ones at home again so I could buy some of those adorable clothes and dress my kids again.
Because, according to her design team, "millennial pink" (a.k.a. blush pink) is the hot upcoming color, and I so wanted to grab a few outfits. Including the rose gold accessories to match.
Her team is laser focused on who they like to call "Mobile Mom" -- the young hip mother who wants to buy her kid uber-fashionable clothes on her phone, at a reasonable price, all while she's waiting for spin class to start.
And that is exactly why The Children's Place is the top of their peer group. "Not too many people that thought six or seven years later, we would still be around and have quadrupled the stock."
But like Lord & Taylor, The Children's Place wasn't going down on her watch. And if she encountered barriers along the way, she blew right through them.
So did all of the women I spent time with over the last six weeks to prepare for the launch of this series that I am so, so passionate about. I got to know some of the most inspiring women - like Carly Fiorina who ran as the first female GOP candidate for President (finally!) and Jenny Fleiss, co-founder of Rent the Runway, a site that lets you rent designer clothes, who is now dedicated to mentoring young female entrepreneurs.
And Deepa Purushotham, a female Indian partner at Deloitte, ("People didn't know what to make of a Deepa," she says), who is leading the charge on inclusion both at the firm and with her clients.
And these inspiring women all had the same advice to young girls. Just go for it. "Find your passion and double down on it," says Elfers.
And while there are only 29 women that hold CEO positions at S&P 500 companies (that's a pathetic 5.6%), Elfers is optimistic about the future for our girls.
"They are more confident and eager to get out there. And they are starting with a much more level playing field than we did."
Elfers is eager to mentor young women and girls because she really didn't have one on her way up. So what got her through? "Stick-to-it-ness. Persistence. Tenacity," she says.
That's Jane Elfers.
And that is Alpha Rising.
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